Why We Chose It: Choir Boy

Narrative poems are often plot heavy and less character focused. However, the narrative poem, Choir Boy by Kieran Orndorff was chosen to be in this issue of Levitate because of its unique characterization and religious imagery, which creates a character focused story and makes the poem immersive and interesting. 

In this poem, point of view plays a large role in characterization. It is written from a first person point of view, told from the perspective of the choir boy. The first line lets us know who the speaker is, by saying off the bat that “I was a choir boy singing about things I didn’t really mean”. This line dives directly into the characterization of the choir boy. We are shown that the choir boy may be indecisive and inexperienced with the line “singing about things I didn’t really mean”. The choir boy is simply singing what he was told, not singing what he truly believes. This shows innocence and naivety, which is later reinforced in the poems with the lines “Too young to understand the amount of blood needed for a proper sacrifice/Too innocent to understand how the gut contorts when placed in the position of pried forgiveness”. This further characterization sets up the contrast between the choir boy and the religious imagery.

While the choir boy is shown as someone innocent and incapable of harm, the religious imagery creates a tone of harsh violence. The first stanza mainly characterizes the choir boy being a young, innocent person. However, the second stanza moves on from the choir boy to more heavy religious imagery, and the truthfulness of what life is really like outside of a child’s perspective who doesn’t understand things yet. While the first sentence of the first stanza was about a child, the first sentence of the second stanza is about devils, asking “All are devils hiding in plain sight, like the liquid poured into the last cup of Socrates”? This contrast between a child and a devil shows the difference between child and religion. The characterization of religion through religious imagery uses rough and aggressive descriptions, such as “The bear will tear the flesh of the fawn, the wolf will collapse the throat of the lamb, there’s no need to blame God or the Devil”. This characterization of religion as a bear and a wolf harming more innocent animals can be seen as a metaphor for religion harming innocent children.
In the end, although this poem is much more character based, with having two main characters as the choir boy and religion itself, it does prove that it is a narrative poem by having time pass. In the second stanza, there is a switch from talking about children to talking about adults, saying that “As adults we slowly find that a sacrifice to the light provides Satan with his shade”. The use of “we” implies that it’s the choir boy that’s speaking, showing that the boy has grown into an adult. This inference is further supported by the last stanza, where the last two lines show the difference between children and adults in religion. The speaker describes himself as being “a choir boy singing about things I didn’t mean/I was a child given fruit from a forbidden tree.” By the ending of this poem, it summarizes being an unknowing child and growing up into an adult who is aware of the harm religion can cause. 

E Coughlin, contributing poetry editor

Read this piece in Issue 7 of Levitate Magazine!

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